Not The Truth about Bill

That photograph of a kissing Clinton is less than might meet the eye, but Ed Klein doesn't care. So what should we make of some photos we've seen of George W. Bush?

Published June 23, 2005 12:12PM (EDT)

Photographs can be deceiving, and that suddenly-everywhere shot from "The Truth About Hillary" certainly seems to fit that description. The picture -- the one showing Bill Clinton getting a smooch from a woman in a baseball -- appears in Ed Klein's book above a caption that says Clinton is "mouth-kissing a supporter" and that, after "My Life" was published, the former president "started a torrid affair with a stunning divorcee in her early forties."

New York Magazine has tracked down the man who took the picture, a professional photographer named Jay L. Clendenin, and Clendenin says that the shot is of something less than what Klein might like to imagine. The picture was taken on Oct. 25, 2004, at a rally for John Kerry in Philadelphia, and Clendenin says there was nothing remotely intimate or salacious about the scene he captured.

Clinton worked his way through a crowd of supporters. When he got to the woman, "she kissed him on the cheek," Clendenin says. "Nothing more. Two seconds out of each others lives." He called it the sort of "routine, split-second moment that happens dozens of times in a campaign." Having seen these sorts of moments play out with candidates a whole lot less charismatic than Clinton -- and having seen for ourselves the massive, packed-in crowd at that rally in Philadelphia -- we can say that Clendenin is probably right. These kinds of kisses happen all the time on the campaign trail.

Does any of that matter to Ed Klein? Apparently not. He tells New York Magazine that he stands by his use of that photo and another kissing shot on the same page. "The pictures speak for themselves," he said. "They make the point I was trying to make in the book, which is that he hasn't stopped being a philanderer." Klein said that Clendenin's picture "invites the reader to see a pattern of behavior" on Clinton's part.

A pattern of behavior? OK, we can play that game. What do this picture and this one say about President Bush? Or this and this and this? And my God, Mr. Klein, what are we to make of this? We didn't want to wake Klein from the yummy Clinton dreams he might be having right now, so we'll tell you what he told New York Magazine about the pictures he chose for his book: "A man who masturbated in the Oval Office with a cigar shouldn't be going around leering at women and kissing them on the mouth."

So what if Clendenin's other photos from the event show pretty clearly that Clinton wasn't leering at the woman and didn't kiss her on the mouth? He's the kind of guy who would do that even if he didn't, Klein seems to say, and that's good enough for him. The question we keep asking ourselves -- and we're not alone in this: Is that kind of logic "good enough" for the writers and editors heretofore affiliated with the Penguin Group?

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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